LETTER: Questions solar array

If reactions to a PDN article on Facebook are any indication, too few people have an intuitive sense of the value of solar energy in Clallam County.

The Feb. 27 article “Solar array, battery storage to be installed on Port Angeles Senior Center,” explains that a combination of American Rescue Plan Act and state Department of Commerce grant money, $1.792 million in total, will be paid to Trane Technologies to install a 50kW solar array, along with batteries which will provide three to four hours of energy storage.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory has a nifty online calculator called PVWatts that allows you to enter a physical address and a few basic solar array parameters, then gives you an estimate of the energy the array will produce annually.

I plugged in the info for the senior center proposal, and the estimated annual output is about 54,000 kilowatt-hours.

At the commercial usage rate of about 6 cents per kilowatt-hour, this equates to about $3,200 worth of electricity per year.

That in turn equates to about 560 years to break even on the $1.792 million investment.

Given that over 80 percent of electricity production in Washington state is already low-carbon, there’s really not much supposed climate benefit here, especially considering all the fossil fuel energy embedded in these solar panels and batteries during the mining, manufacturing and transport processes.

Trane Technologies appears to be the sole beneficiary here.

So is this really how we should be spending taxpayer money?

John Goodrum

Port Angeles